• Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Title

Strictly silos

I got a bit of a shock last week; it reminded me just how strongly the disciplinary culture rules at Greenback U.

I happened to be walking from one academic building to another. A tenured faculty member I know who's been teaching here for about eight years was headed in the same direction for a different meeting at the same time. The building to which we were both walking is a major one on campus, part of one of our better-known schools, facing out on an academic quad. But she didn't know which building it was.

November 22, 2010
 
 

I got a bit of a shock last week; it reminded me just how strongly the disciplinary culture rules at Greenback U.

I happened to be walking from one academic building to another. A tenured faculty member I know who's been teaching here for about eight years was headed in the same direction for a different meeting at the same time. The building to which we were both walking is a major one on campus, part of one of our better-known schools, facing out on an academic quad. But she didn't know which building it was.

I mean, she knew the name of the building she was supposed to go to, she just didn't know which physical structure was called by that name. Turns out, she didn't know the names of any of the other academic buildings on that part of campus, either.

Our walk took us seven or eight minutes (think two blocks). We didn't end up far from her work location of the past eight years. We were still well within the confines of the institution that pays her salary. She was going to a symposium which her department was co-sponsoring, but which was being hosted by a department in another school within the university. And she didn't know which building to go to.

I used to wonder why it's so hard to establish curricular momentum around the idea of sustainability. Now I get it, at least a little bit. It's hard to build momentum within Greenback's faculty because -- in a sense -- Greenback doesn't have a faculty. It has many faculties. And, unless their members happen to belong to the same church or bowl in the same league, those faculties don't talk to one another.

I knew Clark Kerr was right, but I didn't appreciate just how right he was. An assembly of schools and colleges, united by a common heating system. (And they don't want to have to know anything about the heating system.)

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